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What started as a better way W to t get to and from the Burt Munro Challenge blossomed into one of the best rides Big Dave and The Co-Pilot B have ever had. ha


They liked the idea as an opportunity to show a lot of people just how nice a bike the Vision is and kindly upped the ante by making the Limited Edition Arlen Ness Vision (#164 of 200) available for Kiwi Rider’s exclusive use. ‘Oh, that’s only perfect!’ I said to Victory man Garry Ridden when he called to break the news and talk about collecting the machine. At KR we figured it would give a lot of folks an opportunity to see a unique bike and add a little something to the festival. If there’s anything that captures the ‘ornate’ part of the spirit of the Indian Motorcycle better than the Vision – I’d like to ride it. Sweeping valances and organic curves included. It was fitted with the luxury ‘throne’ pillion seat and top box too. NESSIE As we were off to the Scottish quarter of New Zealand, and ‘Arlen Ness Victory Vision’ is such a mouthful, we christened it ‘Nessie’ for the trip. We picked it up in Christchurch on the Wednesday afternoon prior to the BMC and after a quick briefing from Garry we hit the road. It was very warm in the City of Churches and we headed south via State Highway 1 in quite excellent conditions and with buoyant spirits. We stopped at Rakaia to take a few snaps of the bike, while it was still in pristine condition and the cloudless skies

prevailed. We grabbed a bite to eat and pushed on to the South, with the steady stream of passing bikes heading for the Challenge. By now I was loving the bike and wondering ‘how @^#$% good is this?’ out loud under my Arai. Beyond Ashburton the wind picked up and it was still quite hot. The Canterbury Plains might be ‘The Breadbasket of the Pacific’ because of their rich agriculture, but they are pretty boring to ride across, particularly in a building gale like the one that now began assaulting us. THE BAROMETER DROPS By the time we got to Timaru she was really rising…the wind, that is. We then rode into a few showers and conditions cooled off considerably as we pushed on, along the coastal fringe, to a photo stop in Oamaru. We posed the bike for a few portraits down by the old waterfront. In parts the old town is like stepping back in time, with the weathered stone facades largely unchanged since whaling was a big industry. The ladies in the Star & Garter Tearooms were typically South Island-friendly as we grabbed a coffee and put on wet weathers in preparation for the colour of the sky in the direction we were heading. Co-pilot is always tracking the barometer at home and was very happy that the Vision has a digital thermometer in its digital display allowing her to keep observations all trip. ‘Jeez, that got cold all of a sudden hey?’ I said, about to skite about how smart I was choosing to wear the threelayered Rev-it touring jacket that I’m still quite chuffed with. ‘It was 27°C just before Rakaia and 6°C

Big Dave & The Co-Pilot’s

coming down the hill into Dunedin,’ she knowledgeably informed me as we unpacked for our overnight stay at the Mercure in the north end of the city. It was an easy ride down the coastal stretch and the occasional sea glimpses kept the scenery interesting, but we knew better roads were yet to come.



he original idea we floated to the Victory Motorcycles team was that we would access their ‘Vision Tour’ demo bike and ride it ‘some part of the way’ down to the Burt Munro Challenge celebrations in Invercargill. Then we’d spend a few days touring Southland and Fiordland on a photo tour.

CARBO LOADING After we settled in, she headed for the Spa and I rode downtown with the stereo pumping. I caught up with a few online buddies down in the city centre where we talked bikes and bull till it was too late for dinner at the hotel; fortunately the kitchens at ‘Etrusco at the Savoy’ in Moray Place (just off the Octagon) were open. It’s my favourite Italian restaurant – ever. Pasta and touring seem to go together. When next you are in Dunedin, make up some excuse about ‘carbo loading for the ride’ and go upstairs for a wonderful atmosphere, good folks and a Bolognaise that excuses being so common as to order Bolognaise. The hosts even came down for a look at the bike before bidding us goodnight. Friday and ‘Business Time.’ BLOW ME DOWN First event on the BMC programme was the Bluff Hill Climb and we had planned to get away early. Seeing both are nominated in the ‘Best Road’ poll, we’d take either the Pig Root or the Catlins to get to the bottom of the Island. Walking to the bike from the front door of the hotel required leaning into the wind. Opening the top box into it took some effort. Sitting a helmet on the seat while packing was out of the ques-

WORDS: Big Dave PICS: Big Dave & The Co-pilot



Left: Memo Van Halen: This must be just like livin’ in paradise. Below: Mount Cook was shrouded in mist, but the run up SH80 was well worth it. FACING PAGE: Top: Lupins at Lake Tekapo. Bottom: Sunset at Lake Te Anau, the TV didn’t get a look in.

cage in the public car park across the road. It’s right in the middle of town and they give you chocolates before bed! COFFEE TIME We spent the next few days trying to avoid the worst of the cyclone that caused the cancellation of the beach races. We had the bike serviced by the friendly lads at KB Motorcycles, drank a fair bit of coffee and bought new thermal clothing in the town.

tion. It would just blow away. By the time we got to Balclutha, and decisions about which route to take, there was only one answer. The cross wind was easily in excess of 100km/hand it was propelling occasionally heavy showers inland. The sky along the coast was as dark and foreboding as a Peter Jackson gloomy scene and the wind gusts on the inland plains were treacherous. ‘Shortest direct route, thanks,’ we said to each other at the junction. These were the conditions for nothing else. Mordor does rainy. So we motored along State Highway 1, dialled the speed limit into the cruise control and cruised the rolling hillsides away, all the way to the Southland plains and on to Bluff. We were remarkably comfortable doing it. The bike dealt with very difficult conditions admirably. A BIT TENSE At one stage we encountered a traffic incident and were diverted on to a seven km detour of single lane, gravel, farm service


track, in 100km/h cross winds, with heavy rain and passing 18-wheelers. I was a bit tense by the time we got back on to the tarmac, but ‘Nessie’ really coped most tidily – all trip. Going over the Bluff causeway it was blowing. Man, was it blowing. But the Hill Climb was sheltered from the elements by the hill itself, and so was the famous signpost we parked the bike under at the end of the road. It’s like a badge of honour for touring bikers, being photographed under that sign. After a wander around the Hill Climb we headed north for the first time on tour to our lodgings for the next three nights. The Kelvin Hotel appears to be Invercargill’s tallest building. It’s an older style establishment that gets three stars in the Qualmark guide. What it lacks in marble bathrooms and gold fittings, it makes up for with happy, helpful staff and the way they make you feel welcome. I wanted to give the bike a bath before taking it to one of the events – bucket, hose by the service entrance and a smile were immediately forthcoming. Secure parking for bikes is available via a lockable

By the time the Burt Munro Challenge events had run their course, the winds had moderated somewhat and conditions generally improved enough that we set out on the second part of the journey with enthusiasm. After the Sunday Street Races at Wyndham, and the conclusion of the official events, we headed west and to our first real opportunity to punt Nessie up some beautiful backcountry roads. FIORDLAND BECKONS We took Route 96 as we headed for Fiordland and our overnight stop at Manapouri. Once again we were impressed by the comfort and capability of the bike as it rolled away the beautiful, lush foothill country delightfully, until we stopped in the shadow of the Southern Alps. If you are looking for a touring-biker friendly place to hang your helmet for the night, check out the Manapouri Lakeview Motor Inn. Host Dave rides a TDM and attended the BMC. He offers good food, a nice bar and clean and tidy rooms at a reasonable tariff – plus one of the nicest outlooks from the restaurant anywhere – watching the sun set over the Cathedral Peaks (1590m) being a highlight. See

We met some great characters along the way. Like Darren and his mate the ‘The Albatross.’


back to Te Anau base, chatting with a number of bikers on the way. Our theme for the ride by now was ‘you’re never alone with a Nessie’ as we were swamped with questions and admirers every time we parked.

“If I get a Kea to take a sandwich out of my mouth will you put me in the mag bro?’ Now I know you’re not supposed to feed them, but what could I say? The bird didn’t take it anyway. for the skinny. Monday morning dawned and we had no trouble getting motivated for the day ahead. In these esteemed pages eight years ago, I rated State Highway 94 ‘NZ’s Best Bike Road.’ I’ve since found a few I like better, but not many. We had allocated a full day to make the 300 km journey to Milford Sound and back to our next night’s accommodation at Te Anau. At first the road follows the Lake Te Anau shoreline with tree-clad escarpments looming beyond the crystal clear waters. AWE-INSPIRING

Through the 1.25 kilometres of rough-hewn tunnel, and on via a descent of switchbacks to the valley floor on the Milford side, the road really is a motorcycle ride of the utmost quality. Conditions were overcast for most of the day. The temperature climbed to 17°C in the valley and dropped to 5°C in the high country. The road is in fair condition and carries quite a lot of tourist traffic, so button off and drink it all in. The bike continued to draw a crowd and was a big hit with the tourists everywhere we stopped. We took dozens of photos for the Japanese tourists wanting to be seen with Nessie.

Beyond Te Anau Downs the road snakes through beautiful tunnels of native forests that line the fringes of the escarpments. Occasionally they open out to a narrow plain on the Eglington Valley floor, nestled between the Earl and Livingstone Mountains. The scene is quite awe-inspiring and it’s only a teaser of what is to come.

We had a quick look around and snapped a few pics out at Milford Sound, but with the grey skies (and a stunning motorcycle waiting) we decided against the boat cruise as we’d done it before in better conditions. It costs around $NZ75pp for a two-hour cruise (Gilligaaannn!) and if you haven’t done it – ride down and do so. It’s a wonder of the natural world.

Past Lake Gunn the road climbs toward the Homer tunnel with Mt Christina (2502m) looming on the right.

DARREN AND HIS MATE We had a few relaxing stops travelling

When last we saw them, their bikes were parked beside the road and they were headed for a beautiful babbling stream – fishing poles in hand. What a wonderful place to travel. We got back to Te Anau mid afternoon and settled in to very amenable accommodation at the Lakeside Motel and had a wander around the pleasant township. It’s another good one for motorcyclists. The Lakeside Motel, Te Anau, has separate living spaces, kitchen and amenities, but the highlight is watching the sun set over the Lake with Flat Mountain away in the distance. Magnificent. Co-pilot says ‘ Definitely recommended – thumbs up’. MORNING INDECISION We left Te Anau reasonably early with the day’s destination ‘undecided.’ After the terrible weather that had prevailed for most of the first few days on tour, the sunshine and 20°C temperatures were most welcome. The roads from Te Anau heading north are a blend of open highway touring and lovely lakeside twisties. By the time we were skirting Lake Wakatipu, south of Queenstown, conditions were close to ideal. Sunny breaks and virtually no wind prevailed.


ROAD FEATURE VICTORY TOUR The ride along the stunningly beautiful lake, in the shadows of The Remarkables provided one of the great sights of the tour. We decided to by-pass Queenstown and push on to the middle of the Island, stopping at Cromwell for lunch instead. More fabulous sights, gorges, mountains, glistening lakes and snow-capped peaks lined the way. OVER THE LINDIS From Cromwell we made excellent time through Lindis Pass and on to Central Otago and the Mackenzie District. Lindis is probably the gentlest pass on the Mainland, but it is a great ride nonetheless, and its long sweepers ideally suited the big Nessie. Beyond Lindis the landscape in Central Otago is completely different to anything we had encountered on the trip so far. Brown and relatively dry, the plains are ringed on all sides by towering peaks. The snow capped Southern Alps lie to the west, the Hawkdun Range and Benmore Peak (1863m) to the east. The road hugs the valley floor and is quite straight and the countryside open


and empty. Punctuated by wide streams flanked by fields of outrageously coloured lupins, with flowers that were almost the same shades as the artwork on the bike. We arrived at our tentative destination of Twizel at around four pm and stopped to take pics by the incredibly blue lakes. With conditions still ideal we decided to push on to Mt Cook. Unfortunately at 3,754m the mountain makes its own weather and it wasn’t playing ball. Shrouded in mist and light rain, only the bottom half was visible. The ride in, along Route 80, was worth the effort however. EPIC PROPORTIONS The flowing road crosses countryside of epic proportions. Vast slopes rise away from the Lake Pukaki basin and the Ben Ohau Range lies to the west, with Dun Flunary rising 2,499m and the Gammack and Burnett Ranges, off to the east, funnel the view to distant Mt Cook. On arrival at the village we considered checking in to a hotel at the foot of the mountain, but with the cloud that encased the upper half of the slopes unlikely to clear for days, we headed back towards Twizel.

Above left: Another stunning lake Te Anau sunset. Right: If I...will you put me in the mag Bro? Below: Beech forests on SH94.

The riding was so nice and conditions so pleasant that when we got to the Route 8 junction we decided to push on to Lake Tekapo instead – and that’s where we hunkered down in the Pepper’s Resort after a lovely Thai meal in the sleepy town. The lakes in the district are an amazing azure blue and Lake Tekapo is no exception. It is simply a stunning place of great natural beauty. The sunset provided another spectacular end to another incredible day’s motorcycle riding. Central Otago is really an amazing place. The roads are generally wide and open and were very well suited to our lounge chair on wheels. THE HOMEWARD LEG Grey, overcast, back to being a bit windy and the Co-pilot reckoned ‘the type of rain my mother would describe as teaming’ greeted our final day on tour. Conditions dictated that we just headed back to Christchurch via the shortest

ROAD FEATURE VICTORY TOUR “Nessie” set in the back blocks of Omaru. You get the feeling that not much has changed since whaling was a big industry. Below: Along the shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown.

direct route, with the intention of making it out to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula for the first time. Easy, straight running out to the east coast above Timaru, trying to skirt the worst of the weather, with a stop for lunch at Pleasant Point. Worth stopping for the name alone and the food at the Railway Café is good and it’s owned by a motorcyclist. Also worth noting were the numerous highway patrol cars on a donut break near Fairlie. Several marked – one mufti. So it was time to hunker down again, turn up the stereo, hit the cruise control (where suitable – there were some long straight stretches heading north along the coast) and we made it to the Akaora turnoff in good time.

MAYBE NEXT TIME Twice before on our tours of the Mainland we have ventured that way, and twice before we were beaten back by the sheer filth of the weather, and for the third time in as many attempts we said ‘stuff this’ and headed back to the city. The Peninsula was shrouded in thick fog and persistent rain, so we had a stop at the pub at Little River and made our way back to town to return the bike. We gave it a quick wash and from there it was by taxi to the Airport and home to wade through gigabytes of pics. What places the Southern Alps and Southland are! It’s no wonder that vast tracts of the Alps are World Heritage listed. It’s hum-

bling, it’s epic, it’s an amazing experience to sit outside on a motorcycle and watch it all roll by. It’s full of great folks, is extremely tourist friendly, and is jaw drop-ing-ly beautiful. If you haven’t been down there for a ride around, start planning now. Log on to and check out some of the attractions of the Mighty South, and if you are looking for a real good excuse to head down for a look around, next year’s Burt Munro Challenge will be a ripper. Hope to see you down there. Nessie might be a hard act to top though! Thanks to Victory Motorcycles NZ and Kerryn from Venture Southland for making it all possible.


WORDS & PICS: Big Dave We featured a Vision on the cover on the November 2008 edition of KR and the capability of the bike impressed us then. So when Victory gave us an opportunity to use their Arlen Ness Custom Vision, #164 of 200, for a serious tour test around Southland, we jumped at the chance. Arlen Ness is regarded as a pioneer of custom bike building. His works are famous amongst the chopper fraternity and some of his bikes are legendary. Victory proudly announces that he personally customised the Limited Edition ‘Arlen Ness Vision’ in the accompanying blurb. “In styling the bike, Arlen Ness either blacked-out components or chromed them. Chrome features include the: handlebars, floorboards, brake and shift levers, handlebar tips and side stand. Ness custom treatment is found everywhere on the bike, even on the hand and foot controls. The black and chrome styling features blackedout items such as the body and accent panels, forks, tip over protection, passenger handles, instrument panel, anodized belt guard and license plate mount.” The machine he created is one that certainly polarises opinions.

VERY ACCOMPLISHED Whatever you think of the styling, after a very thorough test, in occasionally difficult and trying conditions, we can attest to its capability as a very accomplished Grand Tourer – that it also works as a very cool cruiser. This is a wonderful motorcycle to spend an extended tour on. It starts with room to move. It’s large. (Another blindingly brilliant BD insight!) It weighs in excess of 365kg and has a wheelbase of 1670mm. It’s also a contender for the ‘most bodywork on a motorcycle ever’ award, even allowing for the fact the engine is intentionally left uncovered. It’s comfortable. The seat is low, cruiser low, 673mm, but it is very plush and the foot accommodation is probably the best on any bike for comfort. The long footboards, combined with the tip-over protection outriggers, offer a variety of leg positions that make it very much like sitting in a favourite lounge chair – even for a BD size unit. PILLION FRIENDLY The passenger is also brilliantly catered for, although the Top Box is an additional extra


YOU’RE NEVER ALONE WITH NESSIE on the Ness Model. Also missing from the Touring model are the heated grips (replaced with bling) and the heated seat (replaced with hand stitched leather bling). As it turned out they weren’t really missed on this trip either. The bodywork and electric screen did such a good job of insulating us from the elements. We copped some extreme conditions on the run down to Invercargill. 140km/h cross winds, detours on to dirt roads in heavy rain and plummeting temperatures. Most of which we were quite nicely protected from, inside the bubble the whole setup creates. The stability of the machine in the conditions actually surprised me. ‘You might have to tack a bit’ Gary said when we were discussing the trip into the forecast gales. It was a pretty fair description of the ensuing action. The guys on the lighter, naked bikes were having a much rougher time of it.

The only time I’ve noticed any irregularity in the Vision aerodynamics is on the freeway following a large vehicle – it transmits some buffeting, but in extreme touring conditions I’d have to give it an A+. It is quite effective at keeping the lower half dry in moderate rain too.




FUN TO RIDE TOO For all its size it’s still fun to ride. We logged just on 2,000km for the tour and I didn’t scrape anything or touch down anywhere all trip. It has good enough ground clearance to comfortably deal with the (corners sign-posted as) 75s at 100km/h. The 1731cc (badged 106 cubic inch), SOHC 4-valve V-twin engine has self adjusting valves and hydraulic lifters and purrs along nicely. It’s fed by a closed loop EFI system and develops 109ftlbs of torque at and 68kWs (92 horsepower) close to its 5,500rpm redline. It has good overtaking pull and is remarkably smooth in cruise mode. The range on a tank full varied with how sportily I pushed the bike along, but a return of 16.9km/l was most consistently displayed on the digital trip computer nestled between the analogue dials. The LCD has a variety of trip computer functions. Stopping is taken care of by a set of 300mm brakes. Twin floating discs with three-piston calipers up front and one two-piston unit aft. They are linked, provide good feel with a light touch and are confidence inspiring, even when doing low speed manoeuvres on the gravel. They sit in the middle of some beautiful custom billet wheels that sport a 130 front and 180 section rear tyre. The clutch is equally light and when I looked at all the riding pics co-pilot took, I only have two fingers on the levers in any of them. A PLEASURE TO LIVE WITH The ease of control (for a bike so large) and 50 KIWI RIDER

road manners of the bike were a pleasure to live with. Two people getting on and off the bike, past the large top box, in touring gear, was the only inconvenience, but that’s normal for full dressers. When conditions improved I wound the screen down, folded in the side deflectors and sat back and watched it all roll past in wonderful comfort. The luggage is often maligned because it looks like it should hold more than it does, but we fitted all our gear, cameras, chargers, two dozen KR hats, bike brochures, stickers and co-pilot’s shoes on board. The top box easily accommodates two full-face helmets. Which is handy, because you’re never alone with this bike.

Engine: Air-oil-cooled 50° SOHC 8-valve V-twin Compression ratio: 9.4:1 Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection Starter: Electric Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh Primary drive: Belt Frame: Tubular steel Suspension front: Conventional 43mm dia. telescopic forks Suspension rear: Linkage-type w/ single gas-charged shock absorber Tyres: 130/70 R18 Dunlop Elite 3 front & 180/60 R16 Dunlop Elite 3 rear Brakes: Twin disc front & single disc rear Wheelbase: 1670mm Seat height: 673mm Dry weight: 365kg Fuel capacity: 22.7l RRP: $42,500

were queuing up to have their picture taken with the bike. Everyone had an opinion. We tagged the tour ‘You’re never alone with Nessie.’ It’s quite a celebrity machine, from its diamond-cut cylinders to the four speaker stereo system and effective cruise control. It sure draws a crowd. Don’t let the custom looks and deportment fool you, because it’s also a competent Grand Tourer; it dealt with some miserable conditions admirably, and it doubles as a very classy cruiser. Long may it roam. KR

SURE DRAWS A CROWD The stream of people who stop and ask about it is constant. Japanese tourists

Top: Mt Cook. Below: Admirers at Teretonga.


Kiwi Rider Tour report

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